The Department of Justice is filing charges against the alleged “Planet of the Apes” NFT Rug Pull

The US Department of Justice announced Thursday that it has arrested and charged the founder of an NFT project with criminal charges alleging that he “dragged rug” holders and defrauded them of $2.9 million in cryptocurrency.

Aurelien Michel, 24, founder of Ethereum NFT Collection Mutant Ape Planet, was arrested last night at JFK Airport in New YorkvCitvy by federal authorities on fraud charges. Michel is a French citizen and resides in the United Arab Emirates.

The move marks the third time that federal prosecutors have brought charges against the coordinators of so-called NFT carpets — schemes in which NFT project creators sell NFTs on false promises of societal benefit, utility, and financial benefits, only to abandon the project and provide investors with cash.

In this case, the DOJ alleges that Michel promised Mutant Ape Planet NFT holders gifts, tokens with staking features, and merchandise combos, but did not follow through on any of those promises and instead got close to $3 million.

Federal prosecutors cooperated in this action with both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Complicating matters for Michelle is the fact that prosecutors claim to have evidence that, in a social media conversation with current and potential Mutant Ape Planet NFT buyers, he admitted that he did indeed choreograph a carpet-pulling dance, but only — allegedly — in response to the behavior of Done by the Mutant Ape Planet community.

“We never intended to roost, but the community has become very toxic,” Michel told the owners.

“Michel can no longer blame the NFT community for his criminal behavior,” Thomas Faturuso, acting special agent in charge of the IRS, said in a statement. “His arrest means he will now face the consequences of his actions.”

In June, the Ministry of Justice brought similar accusations against the creator of the $2.6 million Baller Ape Club NFT collection of carpet sweepstakes. The division’s first-ever carpet case against Mbti Frostie NFT ProjectFrostie’s creators allegedly defrauded the owners of $1.1 million.

Carpet withdrawals are all too frequent in the world of high-volume, often anonymous and largely unregulated NFT trading, which generated a staggering $25 billion in sales last year.

Although such incidents are common, today’s action is only the third time that federal prosecutors have brought charges against them.

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